Anatomy and Cell Biology Publications

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Background: Despite rigorous characterization of the role of acetylcholine in retinal development, long-term effects of its absence as a neurotransmitter are unknown. One of the unanswered questions is how acetylcholine contributes to the functional capacity of mature retinal circuits. The current study investigates the effects of disrupting cholinergic signalling in mice, through deletion of vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) in the developing retina, pigmented epithelium, optic nerve and optic stalk, on electrophysiology and structure of the mature retina. Methods & Results A combination of electroretinography, optical coherence tomography imaging and histological evaluation assessed retinal integrity in mice bearing retina-targeted (embryonic day 12.5) deletion of VAChT (VAChT(Six3-Cre-flox/flox)) and littermate controls at 5 and 12 months of age. VAChT(Six3-Cre-flox/flox) mice did not show any gross changes in nuclear layer cellularity or synaptic layer thickness. However, VAChT(Six3-Cre-flox/flox) mice showed reduced electrophysiological response of the retina to light stimulus under scotopic conditions at 5 and 12 months of age, including reduced a-wave, b-wave, and oscillatory potential (OP) amplitudes and decreased OP peak power and total energy. Reduced a-wave amplitude was proportional to the reduction in b-wave amplitude and not associated with altered a-wave 10%-90% rise time or inner and outer segment thicknesses. Significance This study used a novel genetic model in the first examination of function and structure of the mature mouse retina with disruption of cholinergic signalling. Reduced amplitude across the electroretinogram wave form does not suggest dysfunction in specific retinal cell types and could reflect underlying changes in the retinal and/or extraretinal microenvironment. Our findings suggest that release of acetylcholine by VAChT is essential for the normal electrophysiological response of the mature mouse retina.

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